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Russia plans first launch from new problem-ridden spaceport

April 25, 2016 - RUSSIA

The Russian news agency Interfax reports that the first launch from the country's Vostochny Cosmodrome, due to be opened officially two weeks beforehand, will be a Soyuz rocket with a small satellite payload.

The facility is located in the Amur region near the Chinese border, 3,400 miles (5,500 km) east of Moscow. Setbacks have dogged the project, including corruption and budget cutbacks, and might delay the projected Apr 12 opening and Apr 25 launch.

The first launch from Vostochny was expected to take place at the end of 2015.

President Vladimir Putin, who regards Vostochny as a means of reducing Russia's reliance on the old Soviet space station in Kazakhstan, approved the spaceport's development in 2007.

Roscosmos reports that 20 criminal cases have been opened for misappropriation, waste and fraud related to the cosmodrome's construction. According to the BBC, the 2016-2025 budget for Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has been halved. Budget constraints mean the country's new Angara rocket will have only one launch pad at Vostochny, not two as originally planned. The financial problems have also affected the payment of workers' wages, prompting strikes and adding to the delays.

The first Angara launch from Vostochny is scheduled for 2021, followed by the first piloted flight from the eastern spaceport in 2023 aboard a new-type space capsule to replace Russia's venerable Soyuz craft.

First launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome set for April 25 (Interfax 24 Dec 2015)

Soyuz prepared for first flight from Siberian cosmodrome (SpaceflightNow 31 Jan 2016)

Russia's troubled Vostochny space port readies for lift-off (BBC 28 Jan 2016)

Putin blasts mismanagement at new Russian spaceport (Spaceflightnow 20 Oct 2015)

Date written/update: 2016-03-19